Two parties, one man

Ian Castaldi Paris stands in the same league as other types like Jean Claude Micallef, who seem more interested in the cut of their suits than real politics

Labour MP Ian Castaldi Paris
Labour MP Ian Castaldi Paris

Today, Ian Castaldi Paris is a Labour MP, having been elected in a casual election for the eighth district after the resignation of former minister Chris Cardona. That was just over a year ago.

A few years back, he had crossed the line over from the Nationalist Party. He had once been the PN mayor of Lija and even the party’s president of its college of councillors, and once harboured ambitions to become president and secretary-general of the PN. 

His resignation in 2015 from the PN was marked with a surprise appearance at the Labour Party general conference, where he addressed delegates: “Forgive me Prime Minister (Joseph Muscat) but during the election campaign I did not believe you... but two years down the line I am convinced this is a movement that has Malta’s interests at heart.”

The Labour delegates present obviously greeted him with a standing ovation. That ‘movement’ by the way, the one created by Joseph Muscat, is dead and buried. But Castaldi Paris became one of so many sycophants who graced the Labour general conferences and pep rallies, making it all the more painful for the rest of us to watch.

Castaldi Paris spoke in glowing terms about Joseph Muscat, dubbing him “a father and a listener”.

He accused the PN of having been transformed into a party that uses and disposes of its people (which sounds pretty much like all organisations and political parties to be fair...). And before pledging support to Joseph Muscat and “the movement” he said: “I appeal to those who share this movement’s values not to fear coming forward, not because they are opportunists or mercenaries as ‘they’ have described me, but because they believe in the aims of this movement.”

Now in November 2011, some years back, at another general conference this time of the Nationalist Party, he followed the same playbook there and heaped boundless praise on Lawrence Gonzi. Immaculately dressed and almost an uncanny version of Herr Flick, he waxed lyrical about the challenges that poor Lawrence Gonzi faced as PM, how the global crisis that had also rocked Malta had been kept under control by Gonzi’s superhuman qualities... and he even praised the arrival of the Arriva company and the impeccable public transport managed and implemented by “the very capable minister Austin Gatt”.

You sort of have to ask yourself – and I know I can count many readers to have some sense of self-awareness – how some who deems himself comfortable in praising the incredible transport disaster concocted by Manuel Delia, his law buddy Georg Sapiano, and bulldozing minister Austin Gatt, would in five years’ time come singing to a different hymn sheet written by those who stood in absolute opposition to all the PN stood for at that time.

Indeed, Castaldi Paris chastised the Labour Party in his 2011 speech for passing a shameful motion against the public transport reform of the time. And then cue the 1980s playbook, as he twitched on the thread for his aged PN audience by berating Labour for having closed down the Church schools and “beaten us to a pulp” at Tal-Barrani... when the mayor was probably but a pup at the time of the Żejtun incident.

After his leader-worship, he concluded with a dash of more reverence for Gonzi and the even praised George Pullicino, the ‘environment’ minister who devised the 2006 extension of development zones whose effects of rabid expansion are being felt right now. The applause reached fever pitch, the Net TV cameras swiftly cut to Gonzi’s unforgettable smirk, Paul Borg Olivier trying to act all useful, and Castaldi Paris shaking them vigorously by the hands.

It was a speech that would prove to be most useful for Castaldi Paris.

Because when he came to change his allegiance, all he had to do was roll out his tongue to find the same script still written, with just a few minor changes to suit the new Labour audience. Such is the way of the democratic marketplace: at a certain point, when young  minds think ideology is a tad too cumbersome, they go all vanilla and just do box-ticking politics. That’s why we have such a poor, political class.

And that’s why someone like Ian Castaldi Paris, a candidate in the 2017 election, would have thought that bragging about fictitious £16 million properties in London he did not own with Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, could be something to do between ‘bros’.

Now the conversations revealed by MaltaToday last week underline something important: that the MP-to-be in 2019 was indeed aware at some very early stage about the €3.1 million Mdina villa sale to Fenech, having also known its seller, a property broker called Joe Camilleri. Crucially, it appears this was not made clear to standards czar George Hyzler, who investigated the role of Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar as a broker in the sale for Fenech; Castaldi Paris said he was not asked a specific question about this fact alone. What is known is that when Camilleri went knocking on Cutajar’s door to have the brokerage fee he paid out on a sale that fell through (after Fenech’s arrest), Castaldi Paris, now a Labour MP in 2020, helped him out with some affidavit. That affidavit’s hard copy seems to have been torn up.

The soft copy shown to Hyzler suggests that Castaldi Paris effectively nailed his colleague Rosianne Cutajar, having indeed known early on about the sale – both through the broker Camilleri, and through Fenech himself. Perhaps he knew all the details back then. Perhaps they came in handy 12 months later when Camilleri needed to get Cutajar’s attention to return the cash he had paid out.

The question is: how far did he go in aiding and abetting Camilleri, with what turned out to be quite ruinous for Cutajar? Considering that... she happens to be a ‘rival’ candidate on the eighth district he is running on, a constituency which could be harder for Labour to once again return three MPs there. And that would suggest Castaldi Paris has a very slim chance of election, meaning an effective end to his political career.

And the other question to ask would be what exactly connects Castaldi Paris to Labour, a supposedly social democratic party (jury’s out on that one...)? I’m sure the answer is tucked away in some old texbook on the demise of ideology.

But I’ll hazard a guess that he stands in the same league as other types like Jean Claude Micallef, who seem more interested in the cut of their suits than real politics.

It’s all about ego really. It’s the narcissism of being a ‘big man’ in politics that propels types like Castaldi Paris, with his talk of imaginary London mansions, to this kind of path.